There has never been a better time for Marketing to check a company’s public relations budget. With a potential global recession predicted, it’s time to squeeze out better value. Our Sydney-based PR agency has lost long term technology clients’ business in recent years, even though we were achieving excellent results. Why? Simply because someone at head office, 12,000km distant, chose to run with a multinational agency.
Their decisions overruled the preferences of clients’ Australian executives and their regional teams. Subsequently our former contacts (still friends) told us their media and social media exposure had plummeted – by more than 50 percent in two cases.
But with Covid-19 still raging and nations’ economies teetering on the brink, why pay more for less in the public relations sector?
An uncertain future will be prompting IT organisations to assess their marcomms results and possibly seek better value from PR. They are learning that less is more.
We hear rumours that some of the multi-national agencies may be at risk. Our experience of interacting with the big PR agencies used by some of our IT clients is mixed. Some are highly professional: others less so.
We wrote case studies for one high profile vendor about their customers’ experiences in Europe, Mid-East and elsewhere, while a high profile global agency looked after their Australian account. We were copied in on certain local emails, one of which announced that the Sydney Morning Herald had not published case study X.
Two glaring errors there: first the newspaper does not publish IT case studies; secondly, it was a Brisbane case study. At 450 miles (725km) distant, a Sydney daily newspaper would never have published.
Recently we were contacted out of the blue by Australia’s leading marketing publication, seeking a quote from a client that quit PR Deadlines two years ago, preferring a ‘major’ agency. We find it interesting that their new ‘bigger, marketing-focused’ agency has not managed to get on the radar of the industry’s primary Australian publication.
These experiences support our belief that certain agencies tend to send in the A-team when pitching for new business, then have less experienced people running the account. Certainly many of the multinationals we know have high staff turnovers.
A PR friend who runs a mid-sized agency from Silicon Valley describes certain larger agencies as ‘bureaucratic’.
We discovered what he means on seeing a client’s US agency’s plan for issuing a news release. This comprised a complex document outlining in great detail each individual media person targeted. It would have taken hours to compile, all billable time equating to zero productivity.
Instead, we focus on achieving results.
Surprisingly often we see news releases and byline articles from agencies that bear no resemblance to the writing style of their media targets. Few journalists have time to read a 200-plus word intro, with twin deck headlines almost half as long.
From time to time we suggest tactfully to a client’s communications chief that he/she should advise their home country agency to study the way their target media write, and emulate that style.
We work on knowing journalists personally, write news releases that conform with their style, and simply send clients the results rather than inundating them with expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy.
For IT companies seeking the right PR agency, we offer this advice:
1. Make sure an agency understands your company and its technology. Recently a client explained why we won their account. After Marketing narrowed the vetting process down to two agencies, their final request was ‘describe our technology to me’. Our rival agency couldn’t.
2. Don’t pay for your agency’s posh address. It is no guarantee of better results or increased media coverage.
3. Agencies like to drop names of their media contacts, but these may not be appropriate reporters, editors or analysts for a specific company. Experienced professionals develop new relationships as required.
4. Check an agency’s clips book, but beware of results for high profile clients which are relatively easy to achieve. See what they score for clients your own size and budget.
5. A client’s needs and budget may vary from month to month, so an agency must be prepared to work with a flexible budget.
6. At an initial meeting, does the agency listen, or are they in ‘sell’ mode? If they don’t listen, can they really understand and meet your needs?